Editorial |

A Grave and Needless Raid

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Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in February 2016
Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in February 2016 for his sentencing in his plea agreement in the Holyland case. Credit: Noam Moskowitz /' Walla News pool photo

Last Thursday the police raided the offices of Yedioth Ahronoth publishers in search of classified material that was allegedly transferred there by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from his prison cell.

From what is known so far, this material relates to chapters from an autobiography Olmert started writing when he entered prison. He was supposed to transfer the chapters for security approval by the Defense Ministry through his attorneys. According to the allegations, on several occasions Olmert sent some pages containing classified material directly to the publisher, without the approval of the censor.

The raid was approved by the attorney general as a rare and exceptional case. The house of one of the book’s editors was also searched. Equality before the law is an important principle and it’s notable that law enforcement authorities are exercising it even when it comes to prime ministers. The fact that Olmert is in jail is proof that this used to be the norm in Israel.

However, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this time, it was not a sense of equality that guided the system but precisely its opposite: pouncing on a powerful person who has been brought down, enacted with a total absence of any judicious consideration.

It's hard to believe that the state prosecutor's office was guided by concern for state security when it approved the police request to conduct the raid and search for the manuscript. This was apparently done in order to find the parts in which Olmert describes a military operation which he was involved in while serving as prime minister.

The operation in question happened a long time ago, is familiar to everyone and has been alluded to by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was mentioned by other cabinet members and publicly described in detail by many, including an American president and administration officials (as detailed by Raviv Drucker in the Haaretz Hebrew edition, June 5).

There is something malodorous about a raid and search for papers relating to a well-known incident, papers which have not yet been published and are due to be approved by a censor and a permissions committee.

Unsurprisingly, following the incident, the state prosecutor’s office announced that it will object to Olmert’s request for early parole. Even if his actions don’t involve criminal transgressions, the state prosecutors said, they are unseemly and affect their attitude toward his early parole request.

Raids on publishers' offices and editors’ houses characterize benighted regimes. Wouldn’t it have been simpler, more appropriate and more polite to openly approach the publishers without resorting to police vans? It’s still not too late to stop this madness and act sensibly and, not less importantly, with decency.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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